Thursday, April 05, 2007

The immodest homagist

Director Quentin Tarantino has never claimed to be a wholly original auteur. His films have always drawn from a particular film (geek) genre, and he litters scenes with homages to his favorite cinematic moments, utilizing both sight and sound. Reservoir Dogs was a kiss to Hong Kong crime dramas, Pulp Fiction to film noir (and a pastiche of classic American cinema,) Jackie Brown to blaxpoitation, and the Kill Bill films paid homage to spaghetti western, blaxploitation, kung fu movies, as well as Chinese wuxia and Japanese martial arts films. Similarly, Tarantino (along with music supervisor Mary Ramos-Oden) borrow soundtrack moments from those very genres, adding to the sense that you've somehow seen this before (or better yet, feel like you should've seen it before.)

Album: Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof

With his half of Grindhouse (Death Proof,) Tarantino sets his sights directly on the grindhouse genre, which he's danced around before in nearly all his films, and the soundtrack starts right off culling from the cream of the convoluted crop.

"The Last Race" by Jack Nitzsche was the theme song to the grindhouse film Village of the Giants, which starred Beau Bridges, a young Ron Howard (past 'Opie', not yet 'Richie',) and the folk-rock group The Beau Brummels (the 'Beau' thing is a coincidence, oddly enough.) It's essentially the story of a chemistry experiment gone horribly wrong, and the rebel teens that crashed in town all become giants and take over the town.

The next soundtrack homage goes to the Italian grindhouse genre known as giallo, and more specifically, director Dario Argento's thriller Il Gatto a Nove Code (aka The Cat o' Nine Tails.) The film features the eerie work of Ennio Morricone, and his song "Paranoia Prima" provides the right amount of tension for the film, and allows Tarantino another nod to Morricone's work (see Kill Bill Vol. 2.)

Liza Minnelli is Junie MoonNext in line is Otto Preminger's odd movie Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970) which featured music from the band Pacific Gas & Electric ("Staggolee".) The movie starred Liza Minelli in one of her first cinematic roles, as the disfigured heroine Junie Moon. While it's not technically a grindhouse film, it has a similar cult following, and you just know Tarantino has to have it in his collection.

Another director that Tarantino loves is Brian DePalma, and his great film Blow Out is, in essence, an homage to director Michelangelo Antonioni's great 1966 film Blowup. The love theme from Blow Out appears here ("Sally And Jack") and composer Pino Donaggio worked with DePalma on many of his films that Tarantino loves. Not only that, he's influenced by two other Tarantino fave composers Morricone and Bernard Herrman (Psycho, Taxi Driver, his theme to Twisted Nerve was featured prominently in Kill Bill Vol. 1.)

Another movie referenced outside the grindhouse genre is William Friedkin's 1980 film Cruising, which features the song "It's So Easy" by Willy Deville (of CBGB's legends Mink DeVille.)

And last up is the very obscure (even for Tarantino) song "Riot in Thunder Alley" which is taken from the 1960’s speedway flick Thunder Alley. This film featured beach party vet Annette Funicello alongside teen heartthrob Fabian, who plays a stock car racer known as "Killer Callahan," - which kind of sounds like he could've been a character in Death Proof, right?

My, that's a lot of homage! It should be noted that Robert Rodriguez also has a soundtrack for his portion, but instead of pulling from elsewhere, he actually composes and performs the bulk of it, which is quite admirable (but also means we probalby won't hear much of it outside the film.)

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2 comments:

drake leLane said...

Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof

1. The Last Race - Jack Nitzsche (From Village of the Giants)
2. Baby It's You - Smith
3. Paranoia Prima - Ennio Morricone (from Cat o' Nine Tails
4. Planning & Scheming - dialogue (Eli Roth, Michael Bacall)
5. Jeepster - T Rex
6. Stuntman Mike - dialogue (Rose McGowan, Kurt Russell)
7. Staggolee - Pacific Gas & Electric (from Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon)
8. The Love You Save [May Be Your Own] - Joe Tex
9. Good Love, Bad Love - Eddie Floyd
10. Down In Mexico - The Coasters
11. Hold Tight! - Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky and Mick
12. Sally And Jack - Pino Donaggio (from Blow Out)
13. It's So Easy - willy DeVille (from Cruising)
14. Whatever-However - dialogue (Tracy Thoms, Zoe Bell)
15. Riot In Thunder Alley - Eddie Beram (from Thunder Alley
16. Chick Habit - April March

joplinfantasy said...

I had to respond here: VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS, CAT O'NINE TAILS, and THUNDER ALLEY are *not* "grindhouse" films. They're exploitation films, but were not shown in grindhouse theaters.

AIP took both GIANTS and ALLEY out of circulation after showing them at drive-ins, and during the heyday of "grindhouse" cinema, no theater manager would be caught dead playing such dated fare anyway. TAILS is a similar story, as it's a pretty boring thriller with no violence. In fact, none of Argento's films really played in grindhouses after their initial runs.

Just reiterating that there is a difference between "grindhouse films" (not really a genre anyway) and exploitation films.